SAN DIEGO -- (KSWB) -- A man accused of drinking himself to sleep and passing out with a lit cigarette, causing a fire in Rancho Bernardo that killed his two children, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of child endangerment causing death, reckless fire starting causing great bodily injury and involuntary manslaughter.
Henry Lopez, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 28 blaze, was charged on Wednesday and surrendered to authorities Thursday morning.
Witnesses spotted flames coming from the second-story of a condominium on Bernardo Terrace about 3:20 a.m. and dialed 911.
Firefighters arrived within minutes and found 7-year-old Isabella Lopez and 10-year-old Cristos Lopez upstairs with their father. Both children died later at a hospital.
Their father was found at the top of a staircase.
“Our belief is he drank himself to sleep in bed and fell asleep with a lit cigarette which lit his bed on fire and ultimately his house on fire and caused the death of his children," said Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley.
Lopez was legally separated from his wife but the estranged couple owned the home together.